Research on the Cherokees and other Indigenous cultures led us to design the Peace Village concept. Among these cultures it was believed that acts of crime and violence were evidence of a spiritual malady, an illness resulting from a disconnected sense of self. The origin of this illness exists beyond the individual manifesting symptoms, it extends outward to also reveal a larger social deficit. This understanding changes the way a culture responds.
For these societies, transformation does not emerge from the ethic of an eye for an eye, nor was it sought through a course of punishment and alienation, like in Western law. The transformation of a spiritual malady develops through a social process of healing for both the individual and the community. Although an individual is held accountable for their actions, the notion of responsibility is contextualized or shared, because it is understood that “criminals” are not born they are socially constructed.
Again, this understanding shifts the focus from scapegoating with labels and blame, to a process that restores human relationships by increasing human contact. Through teaching, reconnecting and supporting, an offender stays within their community and comes face to face with their actions and those they have mistreated and victimized. At the same time, a community seeks to understand what shaped the offender’s disassociative feelings and behaviors, helping him or her to move toward a more healed existence. A responsible society not only investigates the experiences and conditions that give rise to destructive behavior, it courageously seeks to modify and amend what is discovered.
What is often found through this process of transformative justice is that everyone holds feelings of fear, frustration, and aggression but the difference is that some of us have support systems and constructive outlets for these emotions to be expressed, while others are left alienated to act out only that which they know.
The Peace Village offers this conceptual model to assist educational institutions with an old soltuion to abuse and violence.
“A culture of peace requires a language of peace.”